How could this possibly happen? Why would hundreds of thousands of available dollars not be awarded to deserving high school athletes, especially with tuition prices continuing to soar? Well, it’s a combination of two things.
First, the majority of college coaches that have these scholarships operate on a very small recruiting budget and can’t find the athlete with good enough grades.
A good friend of mine is the head basketball coach at Kenyon College and his recruiting budget is only $4,000 a year. This allows him to scout in approximately a four hour radius around his college. So basically, if you live more than 4 hours away you don’t exist to his basketball program and your potential scholarship can go unused.
You might be saying, “Wait a minute, I read in Sports Illustrated about these colleges that invite high school seniors from all over the country to their campus and shower them with attention, gifts, and even women.”
They do, but those are “blue chip” athletes who are the top 100 in the country at their position in either men’s basketball or football. Those kids have no worries, a Division I school will spend the money to find them because winning means big bucks for the college in TV money, endorsements, and endowment.
The reality is that Division I blue chippers make up a very small portion of the 1500 colleges that compete in men’s and women’s athletics. You have Division II colleges which offer a specified number of athletic scholarships per sport, as well as Division III, NAIA, and Junior Colleges who offer athletic/academic grants and are not restricted to how many they give.
You heard that right, no restrictions. These smaller schools can give your son or daughter a full ride of $20,000 a year or more if they could just find you!
This brings us to the second contributing factor to lost scholarships, which is a lack of proactive parents and coaches in the recruiting process.
In most cases the parents rely on the high school coach for scholarship leads. The coach typically waits until the athlete’s senior year to call his limited number of contacts and by that time most college coaches already have a solid list of recruits.
Ultimately, high school coaches are counted on to come through with the almighty scholarship. This is an unfair and unrealistic burden for high school coaches. The high school athlete and their parents are selling themselves short by not contacting college coaches on their own.
The first step to getting recruited is having above average grades and talent. The second step is having the determination to send out over 500 emails and letters to prospective schools, whether you really want to go there or not. The response rate from college coaches is on average about 10%, so that means you’ll have 50 schools interested and most likely a scholarship offer in there somewhere.
If that one offer is from a school that you don’t want to attend you can still use that offer as bargaining power to attract a school you do want to attend. You simply call up the coach of your desired college and explain that you really want to play for their program but may be forced to go elsewhere because of a scholarship offer. In many cases the college coach will match the offer if you have exceptional grades or talent.
In order to get coaches to respond, they’ll need to know your academic and athletic accomplishments. That means you need to collect your GPA, ACT/SAT scores, class rank, and physical attributes (height, weight, speed, bench, squat, vertical). Quotes from a high school coach or a highlight tape are also nice to have.
What it comes down to is that you have to get yourself recruited!
Even if a college has a large scouting staff, it still doesn’t mean they will find out about you. A great example is Jerry Rice, who grew up a few hours from The University of Alabama, a football powerhouse. Not only did Alabama not recruit Jerry, but almost no college did. Mississippi Valley State ended up giving Jerry a scholarship, and today he is the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.
If they missed Jerry, believe me, they can miss you.